Whipping up a super moist cake, the kind that is made from a box, topped with a thick layer of chocolate frosting and 10 tall candles will be my first task on Sunday. This simple, no-frills cake is the ultimate treat that brings back so many wonderful childhood birthday memories and leaves me with a warm, sweet sense of comfort and satisfaction. This year, I will be celebrating my re-birthday: a second chance.
September 11th has always been the one day a year that I openly allow myself to be immersed in the devastating tragedy. I watch all of the horrible, vivid news specials and usually go through a box or two of tissues. I write emails to my friends who lost loved ones, call my mother and let her know that I am still all right and finally, contact an old colleague and dear friend who also survived and let her know I am thinking of her too.
Not this year. Oh, I will write the emails and make the calls, but I will not feel sorry for myself or dwell on the pain of that day. This year I will make my cake and eat it too…and be very, very grateful.
I know there are not any true positives in relation to 9/11 -– it was an unfathomable act of terrorism — but as a survivor, in order to keep surviving, I must find positives to move forward. So, other than the delicious cake that I am so looking forward to, I would like to share a few positives both from my experience on 9/11 and my current life… all of which I AM going to dwell on this year.
Near the end of my “story,” I was walking down the eerily quiet streets of NYC, both towers had fallen by then, and other than being covered in gray ash and a couple of scraped up knees and palms, I was okay. I came upon a corner where a small group of people had gathered. I stopped and joined them. We were all staring at a perfect view of the smoldering towers and vast sky. These strangers were all praying in several different languages and I can only assume to several different names of God. A stranger grabbed my hand, never looking at me and kept on praying. Some of us were dressed in fancy suits, and some of us looked as if we needed a good meal and warm shower. It didn’t matter –- we were all united, praying, hoping, and crying together. A small slice of positive.
My day ended with a cab ride. Somehow, I came upon a cab that was pulled over, no passengers, only a driver. His lights were off. I knocked on the window and he turned to me, eyes swollen with tears and shook his head no. I nodded and kept walking. I will never forget the sound of his window rolling down and his voice cracking when he said “Miss, I can take you.” He had the radio on, and it was the first time I had heard that the Pentagon had been hit as well and the announcers were speculating that it was Islamic terrorists. I slowly looked in the mirror at the driver and he looked back wide-eyed and sorrowful. I shook my head in disbelief, and he just looked back to the road, tears streaming. I told him I only had $12 dollars and to drop me off as far North as possible. He said the meter was not running and to give him an address. He took me all the way to my apartment in Morningside Heights on 123rd street, no charge. At the end of the ride, he turned to me and said “God bless you and your family.” Another slice of positive.
I was 23, hated working in corporate finance and decided life was too short, so I quit shortly after 9/11. I made a decision that day that I would never have a job that I hated. Soon thereafter, I started working in the finance office for a non-profit that produced theatre. It was a perfect fit for me since I was a Theatre major in college and pretty good with numbers. I know life is full of different roads –- and after the towers fell, a new path was made for me. I am pretty sure I would still be in corporate banking had 9/11 never happened. But I am so grateful of the change of direction. I spent 6 amazing years working for the theatre company where I met my husband, only leaving to move to Boston where my husband attended law school. We moved back when he finished and he is now the CFO of an amazing non-profit called Pencils of Promise, where we have found much joy in giving back to the children of the world and empowering the youth of America to be philanthropic.
On August 10th, I gave birth to our son. Needless to say, this year, I have so much to be grateful for. I know it is a bit cliché to say everything happens for a reason, but I know in my heart that I would not be where I am today – with the most amazing husband, the most beautiful child, living a most blessed life, had my path not been altered by the tragic events of 9/11.
And on this Sunday, I am finally going to celebrate the positives. And eat my cake.
Click next page to read another fantastic story from the Pencils of Promise family…